48 Hours in Prague
"We've got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant," John Lennon once said. "You can't just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it's going to get on by itself. You've got to keep watering it. You've got to really look after it and nurture it."
The fingerprints of the Beatles' lead singer can be seen all over the city of Prague in Czech Republic-- one of Central Europe's cheapest yet most stunning cities. From the Lennon Wall on the west side to the Jewish Ghetto to the east, Prague is a city brimming with diversity, beauty and whimsical architecture; the street musicians in the main square constantly adding their melodies to the wind only heighten the charming ambience.
We stayed in an Airbnb apartment in Old Town, just down the street from the famed Astronomical Clock, Týn Church and Josefov, the Jewish Ghetto. Our arrival in Prague taught us one very important tip for traveling without Wifi: PRINT OUT DIRECTIONS BEFORE YOU GET THERE. In Prague, each building not only has its own unit number but its own block number as well-- its makes for an incredibly confusing entry if you don't have both.
In this magical city, there are not only cheap restaurants and beer (try Caffrey's Irish Bar in Old Town Square!) but unique architecture around every corner. The Spanish Synagogue is one such attraction. The Moorish-style ornamental building is breathtaking from across the street, and serves as a museum and concert venue throughout the year.
I could've spent nearly all my time in Prague near the Vltava River, which runs north to south through the city. Despite the cold, there were always caricature artists, musicians and photographers lining Charles Bridge over the water; I'd recommend at least two days in the city so you can explore both sides.
We spent an entire day on the west side of the city, with the colorful Mala Strana apartments highlighting the historic architecture of "Lesser Town." A 15-minute hike through the neighborhood takes you up to Prague Castle, the biggest ancient castle in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. You can even watch the changeover of the Presidential Guard at the top of the hour! Behind the castle, the St. Vitus Cathedral is also on site-- a gorgeous Gothic structure with unbelievable stained glass.
The cathedral is just the beginning, however, as the city has preserved a street called Golden Lane that includes one of the homes of famed writer Franz Kafka. It was there that he wrote many of the stories included in his 1920 collection, "A Country Doctor."
My favorite part of Lesser Town, however, was Strahov Monastery, which stands on the top of another hill near the castle. Inside are two of the most impressive libraries I've ever seen: The Philosophical Hall and the Theological Hall. Over 800 years old, the two rooms hold more than 16,000 books.
And, of course, the Lennon Wall is a must-see in the west side of the city. Since the 1980s, young students began writing the Beatles' lyrics on the walls in protest of the communist regime of Gustáv Husák. The wall remains owned by the Knights of Malta, who allow graffiti to continue on its surface.
The wall stands near a small Venetian-like canal, which (true to form) features a gate of locks. On our last afternoon, it was the perfect way to end our trip through Prague-- reading the names on the locks as the water rippled below us.
You, Prague, are a city where it's easy to nurture love. Until next time.